Let’s start with laying out the difference between limited edition prints and open edition prints.
Limited edition prints are limited to a single batch. An artist chooses to run 100 prints of a given piece without a future reprint. Limited edition prints are more expensive.
Open edition prints are not limited to a given batch size. There is no limit to the number of prints that can be made, and are more affordable.
Choosing to sell prints as limited edition prints or open edition prints depends on several factors. I am an open edition artist. There are three reasons why I run limited edition prints. It will be in response to the demand for a screen print, it will serve as an Instagram giveaway or a donation to charity. That’s it.
Art Print Accessibility: Limited Edition Prints vs. Open Edition Prints
Let’s kick this off with limited edition prints. I’m just going to come right out and say it. Limited edition prints are like the diamond industry.
It’s market manipulation, plain and simple.
It’s a way to create a false and inflated value for a product.
Diamonds aren’t rare. Diamond manufacturers release diamonds in small batches to keep prices and demand up. If diamonds were rare, why are they the second most common item in a household, second only to tv’s?
If you love my work (any artist’s work, for that matter), you should be able to find it, afford it, and get it at your preferred size. Crazy, I know.
I am an open edition artist. I believe art should be accessible.
Art Print Exclusivity: Limited Edition Prints vs. Open Edition Prints
Print exclusivity goes hand-in-hand with art accessibility.
For the artist and some customers alike, limited edition prints translates to exclusivity.
What is exclusivity?
Well, by its very nature, exclusivity includes some, excludes others, and creates inflated value for a product. Exclusivity reinforces an idea…that art is only for the wealthy.
This idea of art being only for the wealthy or connected goes way back, doesn’t it?
Historically, only the wealthy could afford to commission an artist for a self-portrait, and only the wealthy could purchase a piece of art at inflated gallery prices.
Exclusivity is an elitist approach to selling art.
Exclusivity is ingrained in our culture. It is the prominent and institutionally-accepted means by which an artist is to sell their work.
I confess, I do have limited edition prints in my home. It was the only way I could display my favorite artist’s work.
I am not the typical person. For most, art is not an obsession. They cannot or will not pay “exclusive” prices. Why should they be denied access to the art they love?
Art Print Inventory: Limited Edition Prints vs. Open Edition Prints
Most artists (and businesses, for that matter) don’t have the necessary space to keep inventory of all of their work.
Consider this, you’re an artist working out of a small studio.
You invest a bit of money to have a limited number of prints made and push to sell the batch.
On the flip side, you invest a ton of money stocking your small studio space with an unlimited number of prints. This also creates more work in the shipping department and takes you away from your art.
Seems like an obvious choice, right? Wrong.
BOTH ARE ARCHAIC APPROACHES TO SELLING YOUR ART. We live in an amazing time in human history. Today, an artist has a choice to not be in a position of compromise. There is no need for an artist to invest in stocking prints.
Print-on-demand services like Society6 match or exceed the quality of any local printer. Their Giclée quality prints (printed on archival paper with archival inks) are outstanding. A print order comes in, they print and ship. No muss, no fuss. An artist can easily put their work up for sale, and get back to doing what they do best!
Heck, Society6 even offers canvas and metallic prints!
“Let the past die.” — Kylo Ren